Posts Tagged ‘Scott Atchison’

I really hope last night’s contest was a sign of things to come now that we’ve had a chance to rest and regroup ourselves over the All-Star break.  We had a couple of days off, which was really nice, and from the way we played last night, I think they did us good.  True, the game was close, but it didn’t have to be a slugfest in order for us to see that our guys looked refreshed.

Winning wasn’t the only good news we got last night.  Ellsbury is officially back in action! It’s been almost exactly three months since he hurt his shoulder, but he’s back, and he looked as good as he could under the circumstances.  Look for him to not immediately start every game, though.  Bobby V. might want to take it slow in the beginning.  Buchholz, we know, is also off the DL and will make his next start.

Anyway, the final score was 3-1.  On the pitching end of things, we basically rolled out the staff for this one.  Morales picked up the win and pitched five shutout innings, recording two hits, three walks, and five strikeouts.  He threw ninety-five pitches.  So he labored through it, but luckily he kept his head down and put us in a position to win all the way through.

Atchison, Miller, and Albers then combined to pitch the sixth.  Albers also pitched the seventh, and then Padilla pitched the eighth and Aceves pitched the ninth.  All the pitchers received holds except Miller, who failed to record an out, and Aceves, who got the save.

The Rays’ lone run was scored on Atchison’s watch in the sixth.  Aviles made a high throw to Gomez for an error, which resulted in one on first, and two outs later Atchison gave up a double that brought the run in.  So it was unearned, but still.

On the hitting end, we didn’t waste time and scored all three of our runs within the first two innings, one the first and two in the second, appropriately enough.  Ellsbury began the game by flying out on his fourth pitch, but it was nice to at least see him arc one all the way out there.  With two out, Papi hit a solo shot on his fifth pitch, a ninety-mile-per-hour cut fastball middle in, toward the back of the seats in right.  And everyone know it was a homer as soon as the ball left the bat.  I mean, he flipped that bat aside like there was no way in the world that ball was staying anywhere near the field.  But that’s what happens when you try to sneak fastballs by Papi.

With one out in the second, two straight walks followed by a hit batsman loaded the bases for Ciriaco, who singled in two.  That was really it for us in terms of threats as well; we didn’t constitute any special threat in any other inning.

We had only one multi-hit performance last night, but it was a big one.  Ciriaco had a perfect day at the plate, going three for three with two RBIs and a stolen base! I’m telling you, this kid is really impressing at the big-league level.  Salty, Papi, and Aviles also each had hits, with Papi’s homer and Aviles’s double being our only two out of seven total for extra bases.  And Ellsbury went one for five with a single in the seventh.

It’s good to be back.  It’s good to have people back off the DL, and it’ll be good to have that added production and play out there in the field.  It’s good to start the second half in a good way.  And I hope it’ll be good to watch the second half play out.

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Well, we’ve made it through the first half, but I can’t say I’m pleased with where we are.  The only thing I could say is that I’m glad it’s not worse than it is, but that really, really doesn’t say much.  We’re suffering from inconsistency, injuries, and just a general lack of that spark we’ve tended to see in our winning teams in recent years.  These are underlying, pervasive problems that can’t just be fixed by a trade or a snap of the fingers.  Changes have to come from within, but it’s hard to pinpoint a solution when the sources of the problems are hard to pinpoint themselves.  Either way, we know what we have to do to improve: win consistently.

As I do every year, I’ve graded the entire team at the halfway point:

Kelly Shoppach: B

As backup catchers go, Shoppach is pretty good.  In thirty-one games, he’s made only two errors and four passed balls.  His catcher’s ERA is 3.76, which anyone on our pitching staff these days would be lucky to have.  He has also hit ten doubles and four home runs, and his batting average is .269, which isn’t bad for a backup catcher, either.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: B

Salty is working out much better than we expected power-wise.  He ranks first among all Major League catchers in home runs with seventeen, which I don’t think is something many people predicted.  But all but one of those were hit from the left side, which is something he needs to work on.  He also needs to work on his fielding, which is supposed to be one of a catcher’s strong suits.  His fielding percentage is .987, which is high but, in my opinion, not high enough.  He’s made six errors and passed five balls; I’m looking for something closer to zero errors and zero passed balls.  His catcher’s ERA is 4.45, which is decent, and he’s come a long way as far as forging relationships with the pitchers and calling good games is concerned.

Adrian Gonzalez: C

I am not afraid to say that Gonzalez so far has been a huge disappointment.  He is nowhere near the powerhouse he was last season, and I was fully expecting this season to exceed last season.  He is second among Major League first basemen in doubles with twenty-seven and eighth in RBIs with forty-five, but he’s not even in the top twenty in home runs.  With only six, he’s actually last among all first basemen in the American League.  His fielding, however, is as solid as ever.  He’s made only one error, so his fielding percentage is .999.  But offensively we need much, much more from him.  The team is struggling, but he was not supposed to be one of the reasons why.

Dustin Pedroia: C

It’s always tough to grade a player who’s been plagued with injuries because you have to assume that the injuries weren’t his fault, and you have to try to compare his performance given the injuries with what you expect his ideal performance to be given the injuries.  The truth is that Pedroia is struggling across the board offensively.  Doubles, home runs, walks, on-base percentage; you name it, he’s not performing as well as he could be in it, even given the injuries.  His fielding, like Gonzalez, is as solid as ever with a percentage of .997.  But like Gonzalez, Pedroia was not supposed to be one of the reasons why the team is struggling.  He’s a phenomenal leader both on and off the field, but we also need him to lead the charge offensively and help the team win on a more consistent basis.

Mike Aviles: B

Our woes at shortstop for the most part continue.  Why we can’t get a shortstop in there who can hit as well as he fields is completely beyond me.  Aviles is making a valiant effort, but it’s not enough.  First of all, his fielding percentage is .982.  He has made seven errors.  I understand that shortstop is the most difficult position defensively, but that’s also why you need an amazing fielder to man it.  Aviles is a great fielder.  He is not an amazing fielder.  He’s not an amazing hitter, either.  He has a .260 average and .283 on-base percentage.  He’s hit twenty-two doubles, no triples, and nine home runs with forty-four RBIs and twelve walks.  Not the best shortstop material.

Will Middlebrooks: B

Middlebrooks has some big shoes to fill, so he has to go through a process of proving himself.  I will say that he’s off to a fantastic start offensively.  His performance at the plate has been phenomenal, and it’s been truly wonderful to witness the fruits of our labor on the farm in growing a power hitter ourselves.  In forty-eight games, he has fifty-one hits, eleven of which are doubles and ten of which are home runs.  He has a .298 average and a .335 on-base percentage thanks to nine walks, so he could walk more.  His performance in the field, not so much.  He has a fielding percentage of .935 and has made seven errors.  Third base is a tough place to play as well, and he needs to work on it to round out his game.

Nick Punto: B

Think about what Punto is for.  Punto is a utility infielder.  He’s supposed to be able to play any position decently well and to hit decently well.  He is not supposed to be truly outstanding at everything infield, and we’re lucky if he’s outstanding at one thing infield.  So the criteria he’d have to meet for an A is lower than it is for a starter.  Still, as utility infielders go, it’s not like he’s been that great.  His average is .212; only six of his twenty-one hits were for extra bases, and he has only eight RBIs.  And he’s played forty-nine games, which is about more than a quarter of the whole season, so it’s not like he’s had hardly any playing time.  His performance in the field is much stronger than his performance at the plate, but it still could be better.

Ryan Sweeney: C

I was on the fence about a C or a D.  But then I realized that I was only going to give him a D because Josh Reddick would have been so much better, and that wouldn’t be fair.  It’s not Sweeney’s fault that he’s in right field and not Reddick; that’s Ben’s fault, and we’ll get to that later.  Anyway, Sweeney’s .283 average is respectable.  His seventeen doubles, two triples, and zero home runs are not.  Neither are his nine walks.  His two errors in right are alright, but errors made in the outfield tend to be costly because the ball is farther away from the infield, so those two errors could probably count for more.

Cody Ross: B

Ross has been good but not great.  His thirteen home runs from the right side of the plate are a much-needed edition to our lineup, and his twenty-four walks show patience at the plate.  He also has fourteen doubles and forty RBIs to his credit, and he has yet to make an error in the field.  I’d say he’s been better than expected, but he could be better still; his .264 average and .345 on-base percentage leave much to be desired.

Daniel Nava: A

If you told me during Spring Training that Nava would play fifty-two games by the All-Star break and bat.275 with an on-base percentage of .388, I would have been extremely skeptical.  But that’s what happened.  And he has forty-seven hits to his credit, seventeen of which are doubles and three of which are homers.  He has also walked twenty-six times and has made only one error.  For a utility outfielder that has suddenly found himself in the limelight thanks to injuries, he’s been handling himself very well.

Ryan Kalish: C

In short, he’s still a kid and he needs work, in the sense that he needs to be worked, in terms of playing time, and to be worked on, in terms of training time.  He’s played eighteen games this year and has hit only two extra-base hits, both of them doubles.  He has walked only twice and batted in only five runs.  And he has made two errors, and between the fact that that’s over the course of only eighteen games and the fact that outfield errors are costly, that’s a lot.

David Ortiz: A

Nobody on this team deserves an A more than Big Papi.  He ranks tenth in the Majors in doubles with twenty-five, fifth in slugging percentage with .607, and is tied for seventh in homers with twenty-two.  Among DHs, he ranks first, first, and third in those categories.  Simply put, the man’s job is to hit for extra bases.  That’s what he does.  He’s been doing it from day one this year, and he has continued to do it consistently.  He’s just hit the four hundredth home run of his career, and he looks like he’s in line to hit many, many more.  This season, the team seems to have two constants: inconsistency and Big Papi.

Offense Overall: B

As a team, we are sixth in the Majors in average with .268, eighth in on-base percentage with .329, and fourth in slugging percentage with .441.  We are second in runs with 432, third in hits with 302, first in doubles with 208, eighth in home runs with 99, and third with RBIs with 409.  And yet somehow we fail to win consistently.  It’s because we don’t score runs consistently.  Sometimes we score a little, and sometimes we score a lot.  And of course it also has to do with the pitching, which we’ll get to later.  But like I always say, just like the pitching staff’s job is to make sure that we win regardless of what the offense does or doesn’t do, so it is the offense’s job to make sure we win regardless of what the pitching staff does or doesn’t do.

Defense Overall: B

We are sixth in the Majors in fielding with a percentage of .986.  It could be much, much better.  I guess we can chalk it up to several players in key defensive positions having had to get used to Fenway, but that shouldn’t have taken the entire first half of the season.

Jon Lester: C

Lester has not pitched well at all.  In fact, his numbers are unfortunately similar to Beckett’s.  Why must our aces struggle at the same time? Why must our aces struggle at all? These are some of the big questions for which the team does not seem to have any answers whatsoever.  He has a 4.49 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP.  In eighteen starts, he is 5-6 with fifty-six earned runs, thirty walks, and eleven home runs.  Those numbers put him in the basement of the American League, which is not where a pitcher like Lester is expected to be.

Josh Beckett: C

Like Lester, Beckett has not pitched well at all.  In fact, his numbers are unfortunately similar to Lester’s.  He has a 4.43 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP.  In fourteen starts, he is 4-7  with forty-four earned runs, twenty-two walks, and nine home runs.  He also has the lowest average strikeout total per nine innings of his career at 6.5.  And this is the mighty Josh Beckett that should have won the Cy Young in 2007? He’s like a completely different pitcher now.

Clay Buchholz: C

Buchholz has actually been terrible this year.  He has started fourteen games and is eight and two, but he has a 5.53 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP with fifty-three earned runs, fifteen home runs, and thirty-four walks.  In 86.1 innings pitched, he has given up ninety-nine hits.  It’s a miracle that he has more wins than losses, and how he managed to rack up so many wins is a mystery.  Yet another disappointment.

Daniel Bard: D

I’m honestly sorry to give Bard a D, but it’s the grade he deserves.  He was made a starter partly because his superiors wanted him to be a starter and partly also because he wanted to be a starter.  But the truth of the matter is that he has no business being a starter.  If something isn’t broken, nobody should try to fix it, and Bard was on the road to a fantastic career as a closer.  We needed him as a closer.  And instead he became this mediocre pitcher stripped of his dignity.  He started ten games and had an ERA of 5.24 and a WHIP of 1.62.  In fifty-five innings pitched, he gave up fifty-two hits, thirty-two earned runs, six homers, and thirty-seven walks.  His record was 5-6.  Let it be stated here that Bard is much more effective as a setup man or closer.  And the fact that that actually has to be stated is an embarrassment.  It should have been evident.

Felix Doubront: B

I don’t think anyone predicted in Spring Training that Doubront would become our best starter.  Then again, as we have seen, this season has been full of surprises, most of them unpleasant, so Doubront was a breath of fresh air.  Not that that says much.  In any other season, if Lester and Beckett and Buchholz pitched to their abilities, Doubront would be at the middle or bottom of the rotation at best.  Anyway, his ERA is currently 4.41, and his WHIP is 1.38.  He has started seventeen games and has a record of 9-4.  In ninety-six innings pitched, he’s given up forty-seven earned runs, fifteen homers, and thirty-five walks.

Aaron Cook: B

Compared to how we thought he was going to work out, Cook was actually a pleasant surprise as well.  Again, that doesn’t say much, but given his health when he joined the team, it does say a lot about his determination and commitment.  Plus he pitched that absolute gem a few starts ago, which can not be overlooked, especially since he’s made only four starts this season so far.  He has a 4.37 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP, which is decent under his circumstances.  And we need the extra starter anyway.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: D

I’ve been thinking that Dice-K is a problem with no solution.

Matt Albers: B

Albers has not been outstanding, but he has been pretty great.  He certainly has made a valiant effort to turn it around from last season and has a nice 2.38 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP.  In thirty-four innings, he’s given up thirteen runs on twenty-six hits with twenty strikeouts.  He’s pitched in thirty-two games and has blown only three saves.  It should be zero, but this is not the team with which to be picky.

Andrew Miller: B

Again, not outstanding but pretty great.  2.75 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 19.2 innings pitched.  Six runs on thirteen hits and no blown saves.  If he continues pitching as well as he has so far, he will have the best season of his career numbers-wise.  Granted, he spent most of his career as a starter, but he’s found this new role in which he has a chance to be really successful for a team that really needs him.

Scott Atchison: A

Here’s someone who’s outstanding.  Atchison is probably our best reliever so far.  His ERA is a low 1.79, and his WHIP is a low .99, and that’s over 45.1 innings pitched.  He’s given up only nine runs on thirty-six hits while walking nine and striking out thirty-three.  He has also given up only two home runs.  Outstanding.

Vicente Padilla: C

As a setup man, he hasn’t done as well as I would have liked.  His 3.94 ERA and 1.38 WHIP are actually terrible for a setup man, but somehow he gets through it.  In thirty-two innings, he’s given up fourteen earned runs on thirty-five hits while striking out only nine.  He’s blown two saves.  Now, a setup man is a setup man; he’s supposed to put the closer in a position where the closer can close, and he’s supposed to keep the team in a position where the team can win.  That means not blowing any saves and not giving up any runs, and if you do give up runs, giving up the bare minimum of runs.  I don’t feel he’s done that.

Franklin Morales: B

Another thing that I don’t think anyone predicted at Spring Training was Morales’s versatility.  He is both a reliever and a starter, and he is effective in both roles.  He is 1-2 with eight holds and no blown saves, and he has an ERA of 3.50 and a WHIP of 1.17.  He has made four starts and pitched 46.1 innings total, and he has given up eighteen earned runs on forty-one hits while walking thirteen.  Between all the injuries we’ve had, without Morales to fill in and start, we’d be in a very bad place.

Mark Melancon: D

Melancon doesn’t do much.  Somehow it’s happened that he and Mortensen tend to appear in games together, but he hasn’t really made much of an impact.  And that’s probably because he can’t be trusted, so he doesn’t get that much playing time.  He has a 7.04 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP and has pitched 15.1 innings.  He’s given up twelve earned runs on eighteen hits.

Alfredo Aceves: C

Let’s not forget that Aceves began the season abysmally, and we were all wondering how in the world we would be expected to continue the season with a closer like that.  Well, we didn’t, because Aceves pulled it together and turned it around.  And now his ERA is 4.33 and his WHIP is 1.19.  I mean, that’s actually terrible for a closer, especially in light of what we’ve been used to in recent years, but it could have been a lot worse.  Still, objectively speaking, we need him to be better.  He’s pitched 43.2 innings and has given up twenty-one earned runs on thirty-eight hits.  He also has four blown saves.

Pitching Overall: D

It should come as no surprise to anyone that our team ERA of 4.22 is one of the worst in the Major Leagues.  So is our strikeout total, our batting average against, our earned run total, and our loss total.  Our pitching staff is absolutely terrible this year and must somehow be fixed.  However, a distinction must be made between the rotation and the relief corps.  The latter is performing much better than the former.  On the one hand, we expect our relievers to ideally not allow any runs.  On the other hand, this is baseball, and runs are allowed, and the relief corps can not be expected to constantly clean up the messes made by the starters.  It drags the relief corps down when they give up runs that end up costing the team games because the offense doesn’t hit or score and the starters don’t limit the damage.

Bobby Valentine: C

There are those who say that Bobby V. is not effective here because the brass won’t let him be himself.  There are those who say that Bobby V. is not effective here because the brass lets him be too much of himself.  And there are those who say that Bobby V. is not the problem and that the team is the problem.  Well, I’m not in the clubhouse or the front office, so I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.  But I do know that Bobby V. is in a class by himself.  His managerial style is not one that Boston has had in a long time, certainly not in recent years.  It is a style that our players and many of our new guys are not familiar with.  It is a style that is not always the most adaptable and that probably expects more adaptation than it itself makes.  And it is a style that takes some getting used to.  This style affects his conduct both on and off the field; it affects how he makes strategic decisions before, during, and after games and it affects how he interacts with the players and the media.  And based on what I have seen, based on the decisions that he has made and the things that he has said, I don’t think that that getting-used-to process is over.

Ben Cherington: C

Let’s see.  Andrew Bailey is still on the DL, Reddick is having a pretty good year, and Bard is not a starter.  Whether the Youkilis trade was warranted remains to be seen.  I trust Ben because Theo Epstein trained him and because in the past he’s shown that he has a very intelligent and strategic mind when it comes to sabermetrics and the ins and outs of being a good general manager for a team like ours.  And he’s had only one off season and one half of a season so far at the helm, so the sample size is small.  So I clearly will be giving him the benefit of the doubt.  But I just hope that his long-term vision for the team is not compromised by any sort of impulse from anywhere to find quick fixes that may help us in the short run but will damage our future.

Team Overall: D

I don’t really know what else to say.  If I sound crushed and exasperated and frustrated, it’s because I am.  And I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that we all are.  At the All-Star break, we’re at .500, tied for fourth (or last) place with Toronto and nine and a half games out of first place, which is where the Yanks are.  We can’t win as a team, we can’t win consistently, we can’t score runs consistently, we can’t pitch well consistently.  We can’t do much of anything consistently.  We have all these problems and no solutions.  We need to pull it together in an enormously huge way and have a truly phenomenal second half if we want to avoid the consequences of having a second half just like our first half.

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I’ll talk about the game first and what it means afterwards, because the situation is pretty dire and it would be easy to get ahead of myself in exploring the truly pathetic and unfortunate predicament in which we currently find ourselves.

Lester gave up five runs, four earned, on nine hits over four and one-third innings.  He walked two, struck out six, and threw 101 pitches.  He gave up three runs in the first thanks to an RBI double and a force out, he gave up one in the second on a sac fly (this was the unearned run, because the runner was able to advance from second to third on a passed ball by Salty), and he gave up two in the fifth thanks to a triple and a single.

It was one of those games where it was just a chore to pitch.  Lester was really laboring, which explains his high pitch count relative to the number of innings he pitched; he threw twenty-nine pitches in the first, twenty in the second, thirteen in the third, nineteen in the fourth, and twenty in the fifth before he was pulled.  His cut fastball was good, but his sinker, changeup, and curveball were not great by any means, and he was really struggling, getting behind, and throwing a lot of pitches.  Even when he got himself ahead of hitters, there were too many occasions where he couldn’t seal the deal.  So the Yanks had the opportunity to see more of his stuff, plus he was getting tired earlier, plus he was putting men on base.  When a good pitcher has a bad day, that’s generally what it looks like.  We lost, but we’re lucky it wasn’t worse.  Slugfests are usually pretty embarrassing, so it’s better to lose with dignity than to lose without it.

Atchison replaced Lester after the RBI single in the seventh and pitched the rest of the inning plus the sixth without incident.  He made the first out of the seventh pretty quickly before then giving up a double followed by a home run, at which point he was replaced by Melancon, who pitched the rest of the inning plus the eighth.  Aceves pitched the ninth.

Unfortunately, we didn’t really put up too much of a fight.  We scored one run in the first on an error, went down in order in the second, and then scored another run in the third on a double by Papi.  We went down in order in the fourth, in four in the fifth, and in order in the sixth.  We opened the seventh with back-to-back walks on ten pitches, but we went down in order after that.  We scored our last run in the eighth on a double by Aviles.  We put two on in the ninth but didn’t do anything with it.

But that first-inning run deserves elaboration.  Not too much went well yesterday, but I will say that I did thoroughly enjoy Derek Jeter’s day in the field, which absolutely abysmal.  In all the Sox-Yanks games I’ve seen, I don’t think I’ve seen a single fielding performance by Jeter as terrible as this one.  It was awesome.  With runners on first and second in the first and one out, Jeter had plenty of time and space to catch what was supposed to be a routine popup by Ross to end the inning.  And he just dropped it.  He dropped it.  It was amazing.  The ball was right there, and he dropped it.  I’ve never seen that before.  It was the most pathetic thing ever.  The crowd went wild, and for good reason.  It was definitely one of the highlights of the season.  And Ciriaco came right on home.  Sweet, sweet, sweet stuff.

And he wasn’t even done.  He completely botched what was supposed to be a routine ground ball as well as completely ruined a throw to first in the third, which accounted for two of the base runners we had in the third inning.

Thus, the final score was 7-3.  Punto went two for four, and Ciriaco had another great game with a three-for-four performance.  Defensive highlights, aside from the Yankees’ blatant examples of lack thereof, included Sweeney’s ridiculously outstsanding catch to end the fifth; the ball was hit to shallow center field, and Sweeney charged and dove front-first to haul it in.  We had half as many hits as they did, and those two doubles were our only extra-base hits.  We went two for fourteen with runners in scoring position and left twelve on base.  Despite the fact that the Yankees had fourteen hits to our seven, they went three for fourteen with runners in scoring position and left eleven on base, so from that perspective the team were evenly matched, and you can see that the Yankees also had plenty of opportunities of which they did not take advantage.  But they still won, so that observation doesn’t do much.

As for the bigger picture, we just lost three out of four games to the Evil Empire and we enter the All-Star break at .500.  We are tied for fourth (or last, again, depending on how you look at it), and we are nine and a half games out of first.  For his part, Lester enters the break with the lowest ERA he has ever had in any first half of any season in his career as well as the lowest strikeout total he has ever had in any first half of any season since 2008.  However, it is also true that we can expect the returns of Ellsbury and Buchholz to be imminent, and I imagine that Pedroia’s return can’t be too far off, either.  No matter what, no team in the Major Leagues needs a break more than we do.  We need to regroup, refocus, and just figure out how to win as a team and on a consistent basis.  We need to find our groove.  And when we find it, we need to stay in it and ride it to a good place.

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First of all, let me just say that honoring Papi before the game for his four hundred career home runs was a very nice and well-deserved touch.

When I emphasized our need for a strong series, a game like last night’s was not exactly what I had in mind because we lost.  We are now eight and a half games out of first place, a new season high, or more accurately a new season low.  To be fair, it wasn’t one of those games where the Yanks just scored a mountain of runs and then we had to battle all the way back from scratch but failed to score those few extra we needed at the end.  Our hitters did not procrastinate.  We stayed right with them, neck-and-neck throughout the contest.  That was why the outcome was crushing.

Beckett did not have a good night by any stretch of the imagination, and it’s always funny how a bad night against any other team looks so much worse against the Evil Empire.  He only lasted five innings and gave up six runs on eight hits while walking two and striking out five.  He threw ninety pitches, forty-nine of which were strikes, so just over half or so.

It was not pretty.  He faced the entire starting nine in the first inning alone, and this is how it went: two straight singles, a hit batsman to load the bases, a five-pitch walk to walk in a run, an RBI single that scored two, a sac fly that scored one, another single, and another sac fly to score another one, and finally a groundout to end it.  It was painful, it was humiliating, it was horrific, and if it wasn’t a sign for things to come, I don’t know what was.

Fortunately, at least at the time, we actually succeeded in getting all of those runs back and tying the game at five before the first inning was even done.  It was amazing, and it gave us a reason to believe that we were still in this thing, because for most of the game we actually were.  Nava led off the first for us with a double, advanced to third on  wild pitch, and scored on a sac  fly by Kalish.  Then Papi singled, Ross reached on an error, Gonzalez doubled in Papi, and Salty hit a huge three-run shot on his second pitch that ended up in right several feet away from the foul pole.  I mean, that’s basically what happens if you throw a middle-in fastball to Salty.  It was his seventeenth of the year, a new career high.

We continued playing cat-and-mouse for pretty much the rest of the game, right up until the Yanks scored their two winning runs that we obviously did not answer.  Beckett gave up a triple followed by a groundout for another run in the top of the second; Nava got hit, Kalish singled, and Nava scored on a single by Papi in the bottom of the second.  Both teams went down in order in the third.  Neither team scored in the fourth, either.  The Yanks didn’t score in the top of the fifth, and we gave ourselves our first lead of the night in the bottom of the frame; Gonzalez singled, moved to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a single by Gomez, which made the score 7-6.

Neither team scored in the sixth, which Albers pitched.  But it turned bad again in the seventh, when Miller came on.  He gave up a walk and a single followed by a strikeout.  Then Padilla came on and gave up a triple that scored two.  He followed that with a strikeout and then a double that scored one.  Atchison came on and then allowed his inherited runner to score on a single.  And the squandering of the one-run lead continues.

Ross homered to lead off the seventh on his third pitch, which ended up in the Monster seats.  Salty’s home run scored more runs, but Ross’s home run was a moon shot.  The ball went over the Monster.  Not in it.  Over it.  And it’s hard to hit a homer more moon shot-esque than that.  We put two men on over the course of the rest of the inning, but it didn’t amount to anything because Derek Jeter just had to convert what would have been a surefire hit into a force out, and then Punto struck out to end it.  Melancon pitched a solid eighth and ninth, during which we did not score.  And then we went down in order in the bottom of the ninth, and the Evil Empire won, 10-8.

Gomez went two for four, Gonzalez went three for five, and Papi went three for four.  Both teams posted fourteen hits each and converted four of their opportunities with runners in scoring position.  Beckett received a no-decision, Albers received a hold, Miller received both a hold and the loss, and Padilla received a blown save.  Defensive highlights included Punto gunning down A-Rod at home in the fifth for the second out.  It was an absolutely perfect block and tag.  What a textbook play.

The reason why this loss was so rough was not only because we lost to the Yankees, which is obviously a really big part of it.  It was also because we were right in that game until, well, until we weren’t anymore, until they scored those two runs that would go unanswered.  To have to witness the Yanks get five runs off of Beckett and then to watch as we got every single one of those runs back, three of them on one swing of the bat, before the first inning was even over was just truly awesome and amazing.  And then to watch us stay right there with them almost every step of the way, like I said, was a real testament to what we have in us and how great we can really be.  And, like I said, that was why the loss was so devastating.  It was because we could have won just as easily as we lost.

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We have now officially picked up our first win in extras! It’s nice to be the one celebrating after the nailbiter is over.  We split the series and can feel good about our performance, because for some reason we haven’t had much luck against Seattle’s pitching.

For us, Doubront lasted only four and one-third innings.  He gave up one run on three hits while walking five and striking out four.  It was a miracle the game wasn’t won by the time he was pulled.  He had absolutely no command, and how Seattle managed to not take advantage of that is completely beyond me.  Whatever groove he was in at the start of the season appears to have taken a vacation; he needs to find it again and get back in the game.

He lasted about half as long as Seattle’s starter, so he shares credit for the win with the rest of the bullpen.  Indeed, he didn’t even pick up the win; Padilla did.  Albers finished the fifth and pitched the sixth, Atchison pitched the seventh and eighth, Padilla pitched the ninth, and Aceves picked up a save for his work in the tenth.

We went down in order in the first but had a fantastic opportunity to score in the second; Ross and Gonzalez hit two straight singles to lead it off.  After two quick outs, Shoppach walked to load the bases, but Punto lined out to end it.  Until the eighth, we had at most one base runner per inning.  In the eighth, we finally got on the board for the first time thanks to Pedroia’s power.  With one out, he went yard on his second pitch, which was actually pretty similar to his first pitch.  Both were eighty-eight mile-per-our two-seam fastballs.  The difference was that he took the first one for a ball and he took the second out of the park, sending it beyond the fence in left.  It was his first home run since May, so it was about time.

That home run tied the game at one.  In the third, Doubront had given up two straight singles followed by a sac fly for the first run of the game.  And the game remained tied at one until the tenth, when Brandon League replaced Tom Wilhelmsen. League got Punto to ground out, but then gave up a double to Kalish and a single to Pedroia, which moved Kalish to third and set the table for what happened next.  Then League was replaced by Lucas Luetge, who gave up a sac fly to Papi, which scored what would shortly become the winning run.  The final score was 2-1.

So it was Pedroia who had the clutch hitting, and it’s been far too long since we’ve been able to say that.  Hopefully this is him getting something going here.  We could really use that.  We’re alone in third, one game ahead of the Rays and half a game behind Baltimore.

Additionally, the All-Star votes are in, and Papi is making the trip again for the eighth time in his ten seasons with us! His vote total was the fifth highest in the Majors! This year, he’ll be skipping the Home Run Derby; he said that it made him tired last year, especially at the end of the season, and he doesn’t want that to happen again this year.  I have to say, that’s a team player right there.  Unfortunately, he’s the only one who’ll represent us.  We’ve got only one All-Star for the first time since 2001, and let me tell you, it feels really strange.  Especially since we all know that Salty should have been voted in, hands down.  Clearly it’s not important that he leads American League catchers in most of the important categories.  I mean, there’s nothing to be done about it, but I’m just saying that it’s completely and totally wrong.

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